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Coffee House US Election

Republicans revolting against Donald Trump should look at the Labour Party, and despair

9 October 2016

11:07 AM

9 October 2016

11:07 AM

The Donald Trump story and the Jeremy Corbyn story are same tale told by different countries. A political party reinvents itself in the 1990s, wins power, but then dishonestly drags its nation into a terrible war in Iraq. It becomes widely reviled. The party is still in power a few years later when the financial system collapses. The party takes desperate measures to keep the country’s economy going – rescuing failed banks – but that in turn leads to more unpopularity and distrust among the public. It loses power. In opposition, the party’s base – its core voters – starts to revolt. The party then loses another election. Then the party’s grassroots have a chance to reject the party leadership, which they do. The voters elect instead a leader who seems unelectable, a joke figure. Journalists scoff, the party is humiliated, and everybody thinks it is funny. The party elite and its media backers try to organise coup after coup against the new leader, but that only entrenches his position. A strong (yet oddly ironic) personality cult has developed around the new leader, so that the worse he performs – and the more the media pours scorn on him – the more his supporters worship him.

There are of course great differences between Labour’s plight and the Republican Party’s. Jeremy Corbyn is no Donald Trump, and vice-versa. But the moral lesson is the same. This tale of two parties is a powerful allegory about what happens when you take voters for granted for too long. And the Republican Party leaders now launching a late, hopeless rebellion against Donald Trump this weekend should look at what has happened to the Labour Party, and despair. What these Grand Old Party bigwigs don’t realise – or can’t accept – is that, however much the public may think Trump’s candidacy farcical and find him appalling, voters hate them far than they could ever hate the Donald. The more cynically these establishment politicians move against the leader – endorsing him one day then turning on him the next – the more they confirm the public’s suspicion that they are lying crooks who will stop at nothing to preserve their power. The latest coup against Trump, just like the latest attempt to force Jeremy Corbyn to resign, has only strengthened his position among his supporters. Look at the ovation the Republican nominee received outside Trump Tower last night.


The most pressing difference, of course, is that Donald Trump’s big election test is in four weeks, whereas Jeremy Corbyn might not face a general election until 2020. This makes this weekend’s revolt against Trump both more urgent and too late. It will not work (it actually cannot work, legally) but it will confirm another suspicion – that the GOP, like Labour, is a dead beast.

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